A decade ago I remember watching this science fiction horror movie on TV – it starred Laurence Fishburne as the captain of a crew that investigates an abandoned space ship that sent out a distress signal and had disappeared. It turns out that the ship had somehow found a portal in space and traveled to hell and back. It was bizarre, intriguing and is still one of the most terrifying movies I’ve ever seen. It was called Event Horizon, directed by a bloke named Paul WS Anderson.
A still from 'Pompeii'
After Event Horizon, Anderson made a movie based on one of my favourite video games, Resident Evil. It was a passably fun and certainly a better video game adaptation than his first film, Mortal Kombat. I became an Anderson fan and was convinced that this guy would go on to make either cult hits or at least good-looking big budget titles. I was wrong, and his filmography has been one giant blip since then.
From directing terrible sequels to Resident Evil and a boring remake of Death Race, he has let me down in a big way. His latest venture, Pompeii, doesn't do much to improve his reputation. Pompeii is just like Anderson's films of the past ten years – aggressively stupid, full of CGI and bland characters, with a script that is somehow neither interesting nor laughably bad. It's something akin to Gladiator meeting a Roland Emmerich movie, with a dash of Anderson's trademark lack of subtlety and inability to craft good action sequences.
The film stars Kit Harrington (John Snow from Game of Thrones) as a slave who becomes a gladiator (sounds familiar). The entire movie is one big action scene, where Kit runs around ancient Pompeii to save the woman he loves from villainous Romans.
The film is so lazy at times, it doesn’t even seem like Kit changed his clothes and makeup from the sets of Game of Thrones because he is the exact same character.
Emily Browning, who attempted arthouse cinema recently with Sleeping Beauty, looks extremely uncomfortable as Kit's beloved and only spells disaster for this disaster adventure.
The movie doesn't stick to facts either, and it becomes frustrating because Anderson could have let his imagination run wild and made an entertaining movie if he had decided to veer away from historical accuracy. The only fun part of the movie is that the Roman accents are hilariously inconsistent, varying from English to American to Australian, and the actors don't even try to hide their embarrassment.